Saturday, 1 September 2007

Living in a Free World? A Myth in Capitalist Societies

Many people say that since Josef Stalin and Saddam Hussein are no longer around, we live in a relatively free world. Elections are now held in numerous countries. Furthermore, we are faced with countless choices that our parents never had. Such observations suggest that the people who live in countries where elections are held are all free, able to spend their lives the way they want to. Does this really happen in those places?

Let us take Malta as an example. There are, at least, three political parties in Malta and elections are held every five years or so. Although the parties are supposed to focus on issues that are relevant to the country's inhabitants, there seem to be many times when the people have very little say as to the exact nature of the proposals that enter the election arena. In any case, the fact that Maltese individuals are able to cast a vote every few years makes many of them feel that they are living in a free country. To me, elections are a tool that the people use to either keep a party in government or to rope in a new one. Fair enough, the fact that a person will not end up being tortured when he/she favours a particular party shows that there is a certain amount of freedom, but this does not mean that Maltese people are free to spend their days the way they want to.

Elections come once every five years or so, but going to work is an almost daily occurrence for most Maltese individuals. The rather astonishing thing is that while many people are quick to identify dictatorial tendencies when analysing political parties, hardly anyone appears to notice how anti-democratic most workplaces appear to be.

Before delving deeper, what exactly does "going to work" mean? For most people, this represents spending, at least, eight hours of their lives every day for most days of the week going to a place where a great deal of their personal freedom is stolen from them. They are bossed around according to the whims of their directors. They have little to no say concerning the ways in which the company should be run. Salaries and working times are dictated in a top-down way and are rarely revised throughout the year.

In many companies, the directors seem enjoy their dictatorial positions. Whenever they appear around their employees, the latter typically stand to attention. Furthermore, the employees are frequently petrified when facing a director in case they say something which is not "right" and which could consequently prejudice their position in the company.

Focusing on first-time job seekers, these usually have very little bargaining power with an employer. They cannot say that since they have a certain amount of work experience, their starting salary should be fixed at a certain level. University qualifications can sometimes be helpful, but given the fact that various degrees seem to have little relevance to countless jobs, various employers ignore such qualifications when determining an employee's salary.

When I talk about these issues, a common reaction is: so, what should a person do? Remain unemployed??? Of course not! Unfortunately, the fact is that in our current age and time, most people are obliged to choose the lesser of two evils - surrender to the capitalist dictatorship or starve without enough money to survive! Taking into account these two options, it is quite hard to consider them as constituting a real choice!

To conclude, I believe that two things are fundamental if people are really interested in making a positive difference in the working world. First, employees need to unite; they need to share their concerns and work together on how they could improve their conditions at work. Second, apart from mobilising at work, employees also need to join social organisations which promote workers' rights and which have an impact on the country's legislation with respect to working conditions. Sadly, although countless individuals in today's world are free to vote for a particular political party, freedom is still terribly limited when analysing other very important aspects of a person's life.

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1 comment:

La delirante said...

I totally agree with your post. These days I have been thinking a lot about these issues. My conclusion so far is that one really needs to love where he/she works in order to survive in this job market world. Otherwise frustration and depression could arise.
It is also true that many degrees are basically useless nowadays to earn a good salary. In some places they just want to hire school-leavers or they prefer people who don't have a degree because of their reduced bargaining power.